Focal Clear

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by The Alchemist, Nov 15, 2017.

  1. klyrish

    klyrish Acquaintance

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    These arrived yesterday afternoon. I got a great deal on them on Amazon. A seller from Maryland had open box - like new for $1199 with Prime shipping and no sales tax. I had $75 in gift cards so only $1124 total.

    I put them on immediately and was extremely underwhelmed. I've read through this entire thread so I was expecting this and left Spotify on overnight and all day so far to let them burn in a bit. I just put them on and holy fucking SHIT these really opened up. Bass was distorted and blown out yesterday--especially sub-bass--and treble was harsh.

    Today, the treble is under control but so revealing and detailed and the bass has really smoothed out. I cannot believe the extension these have compared to the HD6XX. I know everyone's said it but it's one of those things you just can't know until you experience it. I was really regretting the purchase yesterday because the bass was so bad but I think it's perfect now.

    I am so pleased with these headphones. I've already heard some new stuff in the few NIN songs I've already played and I can't stop smiling like a goon about it. Next step: Mjolnir 2 and then I think I can finally stop chasing the dragon.
     
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  2. Senorx12562

    Senorx12562 Case of the mondays

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    Famous last words. Congrats on the new cans, dude.
     
  3. famish99

    famish99 Friend

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    For the record I feel that the Clear and the Mjolnir 2 is not a great combination. It's much nicer out of the T3 or Liquid Platinum due to much less aggressive treble. I like the Clear out of pure tube amps as well but I'm definitely an outlier in the sense that I'm not as bothered by bloomy or loose bass.
     
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  4. Bloom

    Bloom MOT: Bloom Audio

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    The Clear is like Focal's sleeper hit. It's almost never talked about these days and yet I feel as though it's 97% of the Utopia at a wayyy lower price, especially if you get a deal like you did (or through dealers like me ;)). I love my Clear.
     
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  5. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    The Focal Clear was always a headphone that intrigued me ever since I've read the InnerFidelity article on it written by Tyll. However, after becoming a member here, I wasn't sure that the Focal sound was something that I'd enjoy. Going to micro CanJam at Marv's, however, I got to try a Clear and an Elex, and liked them enough that when a Clear showed up in this forum's classifieds, I decided to bite. And now that I've finally wrested them away from other family members' hands long enough to actually properly give them a listen, I'll give my impressions here.

    I'll start by saying that I can see why some would call these a "super HD 600/650," but I personally don't agree with that line of thought. The primary reason why I say this is because the HD 650 (don't have experience with the HD 600) can be a little laid-back and relaxed, the Clear is limber, athletic, and extremely fast. The stark difference in personality makes me feel that the Clear is an entirely different animal than the HD 650, and thus I'm not comfortable saying it's a successor/upgrade.

    However, I can see why @purr1n, among others, have said why the Clear kind of makes the HD 650 sound absolutely mid-fi in comparison. The HD 650's background can be a little grey even on high-end chains; the Clear is much blacker in background. The Clear is much more open than the HD 650. The Clear has extension that the HD 650 cannot hope to have no matter what mods are applied. The Clear resolves detail and presents it in a way that makes it really obvious; the HD 650, while very resolving, is very subtle. The Clear is much obviously faster than the HD 650, to the point where it would be like racing an F1 car against a standard family saloon. So perhaps it's not wrong in saying that in terms of technicalities, the Clear is overall better than the HD 650.

    In terms of tonality, the Clear is very well balanced here, with a slight edge in treble that seems track and mood dependent. It does not bother me, although I'm not treble sensitive. It's worth noting that the treble and mid transition is not as effortless as something like the Auteur or the HD 650, having a bit of discontinuity between these ranges (not sure exactly where it exists in terms of frequency though). The Clear's treble is also noticeably rougher than the two mentioned headphones (not by much), but in no way is it a showstopper; it's just not the smoothest.

    Mids are quite good actually; I was quite pleased. It's not as warm as the HD 650, and it's a bit analytical-sounding, probably because it shows details so prominently, but the tone seems natural and correct with good timbre. Bass is actually quite great; I think the Clear might have some of the best bass quality of any dynamic can that I've tried in terms of being fast, differentiating pitch, and extension (the Auteur has good pitch differentiation and extension, but it isn't that fast).

    Stage-wise, the Clear is roughly the same size as the Auteur; that is, slightly larger than the HD 650. Center image is in strong focus though, and it's worth reiterating the fact that the Clear sounds much more open than the other cans. At any rate, stage in headphones is just not that important to me as long as the three-blob thing isn't there (that is just a showstopping issue IMHO).

    As stated before, resolution on the Clear is excellent; I think it might be more detailed than a HD 650 (it's either that or I just notice the details more on the Clear because of the obvious presentation). It's startlingly dynamic; it really hits those transients and dynamic swings with a force that makes it sound "moar hi-fi" than the other cans I mentioned here (or heck, the other cans I have on my profile). So what's really not to like?

    Well, not much really. I do like the Clear, but I find it much less emotionally engaging than the Auteur, and less engaging than even the HD 650. I think this might have to do with the way it decays and resolves detail; it just doesn't have that same sense of "magic" the other cans have. It ends up sounding super-analytical; I wouldn't say cold, but it kind of sounds like it doesn't have a soul. This is a headphone where I find myself turning the volume dial down as the session goes on; on the Auteur, I find myself wanting to crank my amp louder.

    Marv stated before in the measurement thread that the Clear is for the left-brain, and I agree. That being said, I do thoroughly enjoy this headphone and plan on listening when I can wrestle it back into my possession. Definitely worth an audition if you want something different than a HD 650, but enjoy that headphone. And if you're not treble sensitive, a good complement to ZMF cans.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
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  6. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    Exactly what happened to me last year, but I got mine on special from The Source. Heartily agree with most of your impressions. I guess I'm a bit treble shy because I had to apply some front damping (1 layer of HD650 foam + 1 ultrathin ply of TP). I find both the HD650 and Clear very engaging, but after reading your thoughts I realized it's in slightly different ways. To put it simply I guess the Clear is engaging the left brain and the HD650 the right. The detail, clarity and dynamics of the Clear have me going "Wow!" as I listen, whereas the smoother Senn brings out more of the soul of the music.

    Maybe you could try some front damping to reduce the analytical-ness and see if it brings out more of the soul. Also, I'm using MCTH with a TFK E88CC which has a softer, smoother (though slightly rolled off in the bass) sound than the stock tube. Is the Liquid Platinum colder sounding by any chance?
     
  7. Sonorus

    Sonorus Facebook Friend

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    Excellent writing.
    Most of it reflects my own impressions when i had it as a demo for one week
    with Gungnir Multibit and MJ2.
    I could listen to it only at moderate to low volume because every time i raised the volume i felt
    that there was something wrong going with the treble.
    There was some kind of annoying harshness - ringing that was forcing me to lower the volume.
    Please keep in mind that i am not treble sensitive as i use HD800S.
    I'd love to keep that headphone because the overall tonality is great as the dynamics etc but the above issue
    restrained me from buying it.
     
  8. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    I'll try some toilet paper to see what I think, but honestly I have no issues with the way the Clear sounds stock. Listened for several hours last night and had no issues with comfort nor fatigue.

    The Liquid Platinum is a neutral amp with a laid-back personality. Mine has Telefunken PCC88 in them, which makes it sound less laid-back and brings more sparkle in the treble. Honestly, I think it makes a decent pairing with the Clear for those who find the Clear to be a bit too startlingly dynamic (if you don't mind using only a tiny bit of the pot that is)

    It's possible that the slight ringing in the treble region (shown in measurements) annoys you.
     
  9. Sonorus

    Sonorus Facebook Friend

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    Or it was a MJ2 artefact....
    I wish i could give them another try with V280.
     
  10. famish99

    famish99 Friend

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    I find this mostly applies for the bass and treble, I find that a modded 650 has a bit more nuance in the mids.

    I also thought the LP and Clear was a great pairing, the LP helps tame the heat the Clear can exhibit in the upper mids/lower treble, yet has the speed to keep up with the Clear especially in the bass.
     
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  11. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    Very cool take on Clear, thanks!

    One question though: you'd put these Focals above HD 800 as far as detailing goes?
     
  12. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    I have very limited experience with the HD 800, so honestly I'm not certain, but I don'tthink the Clear quite reaches the HD 800 in resolution. And it also doesn't seem as detailed as the Utopia (another can I don't have much experience with). What I can say from experience is that the Verite is considerably better in detail.

    I will also say that I find the Clear much easier to listen to than a modded HD 800/stock HD 800S/Utopia. The Sennheisers just weren't my cup of tea and I never bothered listening to it too much. With the Utopia, I found it technically competent but annoying in anything beyond short listening.
     
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  13. famish99

    famish99 Friend

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    Without a doubt, no. 800(S) easily outresolves the Clear across most of the spectrum. Having said that, I use my Clear about twice as often as I use my 800S.
     
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  14. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    I received my Clear yesterday. I bought it used so I assume it has been fully burned-in. I compared it with HD650M, Code-X and Verum 1. The amp used was MCTH. Though not TOTL by any means, I feel that the MCTH is an excellent amp for Code-X and Verum 1 in the sub-$1K range, and actually preferred it to the supposedly higher tier LP due to tonality reasons.

    VS HD650M

    I get why people are saying that the Clear is a super HD650. To be more precise, it should be called a super HD650M. The Clear isn't as smooth as HD650M, but retains a fatigue-free tonality I prefer to that of Utopia. The Clear is obviously more transparent, faster and bigger sounding than the HD650M. I didn't feel that the Clear outresolved the HD650M, however.

    Clear was the clear (no pun intended) winner here, but in my experience, I'm aware of how scarily the HD650M could scale. The EC Studio was the best amp I've heard with it and that particular combo remains the best traditional dynamic setup I've heard so far. I cannot say that the Clear could reach those heights, all I can say for now is that unless you own a megabuck TOTL amp, chances are the Clear will be better sounding than HD650M for most scenarios.

    VS Code-X

    I expected the Clear to be slightly brighter sounding than Code-X based on others' impressions, but I was wrong. To my ears it's actually warmer and more full-bodied (in other words, the Code-X sounds brighter and leaner in comparison). I didn't have high expectations for the Clear's soundstage, since soundstage is not one of Focal headphones' fortes (not even Utopia's soundstage was something to write home about), but to my ears it was still a bit deeper than that of Code-X. Resolution was on par.

    Overall I preferred Clear to Code-X on the MCTH, both technicality and tonality-wise. However, it could be that the MCTH is the bottleneck here for Code-X. While the MCTH has little trouble driving the Code-X for almost all (not all) of my music, the Code-X sounded a lot better on the LG which I no longer own, perhaps due to its laid-back character and higher power (the Code-X scales higher with more power, being one of the less sensitive planars around). I'm sure the Clear would noticeably scale from MCTH to LG, but not so sure if I could still say that it's more preferable to Code-X on the LG. I'm guessing something like a DSHA-3F would be more of an ideal amp for Clear.

    VS Verum 1

    As much as Verum 1 is lauded for its performance in its price category, the Clear easily destroys it. The Verum 1 cannot resolve like the Clear could (nor could it hold a candle to HD650M and Code-X in this regard). The Clear sounds significantly cleaner, less veiled and more refined than the Verum 1. The Verum on the other hand sounds a tad brighter and thicker than the Clear.

    The Clear was a pleasant surprise for me. While it doesn't have HD800 or Utopia's technicalities, I really enjoy its tonal balance and what it could do. The Clear is the first dynamic headphone that I felt was at least as good, if not better, than the Code-X in their price league (around $1.5K).
     
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  15. Besnia

    Besnia Almost "Made"

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    Interesting. This does seem to be a common theme among most audio enthusiasts. What is the audio chain you use to drive these headphones?

    I have a slightly different experience even though I do enjoy HD800S a lot. I think the Clear is notably more accurate than the HD800S. By "accurate" I'm not referring to the headphone's tonal balance, but to its ability to accurately translate electrical signal into pressure waves. Even though the HD800S treble is elevated it sounds less precise to my ears. Prob many will disagree, but this has to do with the hardware inside. Clear's rigid cone should resolve higher frequencies better than HD800's mylar cone, and to my ears at least it does (and also bass is way better due to the super compliant cone suspension).

    My best guess as to why many people vote HD800S to be technically superior to the Clear is probably because they compare the two headphones listening at pretty high volume levels. The harder the clear gets pushed, the more some high frequency resonances seem to get excited. I can only describe these as giving the sound a metalic timbre. This is not only a bit unpleasant, but also results in an overall distortion of the treble. The HD800S treble on the other hand does does remain better composed at loud levels.

    I'm not sure why this is, but I spent an hour just now comparing the two headphones at different volume levels, and the differences seem to be sufficiently obvious to write off a possible placebo effect. It could be that the HD800S mylar cone has better self-daming properties, but also a big factor could be the design of the motor and the differences in cone suspensions.

    It seems pretty clear to me that these two headphones perform differently at different volume levels, but at sub 90db (@1Khz) I think the Clear beats the HD800S in pretty much every way, other than soundstage width.

    Has anyone else noticed the same? It may have been discussed elsewhere on the forum, but I couldn't find it.
     
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  16. bilboda

    bilboda Friend

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    Can't say about the HD800 but it is true for me about the Clears and the Verum One's.
    On the Verite, any volume seems to be fine, it will depend on my eardrums.
    I like the Verums best at he lowest volume vis a vis these headphones.
    Clear's did fine up to up to a point. And the Verite's have no issues in the volume range that I use.
    Particularly on the Verum's and somewhat true on the Clear, I would reduce volume not because of overall loudness but to get better quality.
    Just so happens that this trend is in alignment with their relative impedances....maybe a coincidence.
     
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  17. Sonorus

    Sonorus Facebook Friend

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    As i have posted several times this reflects exactly my personal experience with this two headphones but i found the clears treble irritating at lower volumes than 90db.
    A major flow for me , if i am going to pay 1600€ to listen to whisper level volumes , no thanks i will pass.
    A headphone for listening smooth jazz ,,,,, as i couldn't listen symphonic works at normal listening levels.
    This must be a driver and/or dampening problem.
     
  18. famish99

    famish99 Friend

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    I would hazard the same guess but I listen at much lower volumes than my friends and most likely lower than average. My chain is in my signature but I've made the same comparisons on both an Af and a Liquid Platinum. The Clear definitely has a deficiency at plankton in the mids relative to either my modded 6xx or the 800S.
     
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  19. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    I don't listen beyond 85db and the Clear treble becomes bothersome after about 3 songs for me. But i frankly agree with famish 100% about the Clear's resolving ability. The metal dome and light thin suspension design allows it to sound more dynamic than both the Senns, so cymbals, metal string guitars, etc. transient features will definitely sound more "detailed" and live than both of those. But play something with texture instead of transients like wind instruments or vocals and its kind of obvious the Clear is doing worse than both, sounding both unnatural (like sharpened film grain in old dvds) and missing out on some texture, something the Utopia recovers much of but not without its own faults. In hindsight, maybe thats why people say the Senns are resolving in the mids, because texture, even if its information in the treble region, is really the kind of stuff that "overlays" on mids.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
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  20. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    Regarding the bass break-up issue some reported earlier, I'm going to retract what I said about hearing some on mine. I was listening to some LF test tones to try and quantify the (lack of) bass on my new NBM and heard some buzzing starting in the mid-bass and continuing on down. After a lot of fiddling around, I finally decided to listen to that niggling in the back of my head that said, "maybe it's the TP flapping". So I took out the thin layer being held against the driver mesh by the velcro'd HD650 foam. Sure enough, no buzzing. Now when I crank low bass notes on the NBM, all I can hear out of the ordinary is the distortion that's been shown in measurements.
     
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